For years, China took about 40% of our country's recycled materials.

But recently, China stopped accepting recycled material from the U.S. unless it has a contamination rate of 0.5% or less, a standard too strict for most cities to meet.

Over the past year, China's decision to restrict imported recyclable material has threatened to cause major disruptions for recycling programs across the U.S.

Fortunately, Franklin County's recycling program isn't one of them. In fact, recycling is alive and well in central Ohio.

Virtually all the material collected through our household recycling program goes to Rumpke's material-recovery facility, where it's sorted by type and bundled for sale. Rumpke sells more than 98% of the material it handles to domestic buyers, many right here in Ohio.

Unlike some other waste and recycling companies, Rumpke is not dependent on China or other foreign markets.

As a result, you can have confidence knowing that the recyclables you put at the curb each week are not being landfilled but are being recycled and given new life as new products made from an Ohio-generated resource.

This is not to say that there are no challenges for recycling in central Ohio.

China's policy has disrupted the markets and lowered the value of some recyclable materials. Subsequently, we're seeing some increase in the cost of collecting and processing these materials, although not nearly as dramatic as in other parts of the country.

The situation also has placed a premium on the quality of the recyclable material collected. To address this, SWACO has initiated a "Recycle Right" public-education campaign, working closely with local communities to educate residents about what can and cannot be recycled.

SWACO also has launched a residential recycling-cart initiative to help communities purchase recycling carts for their residents -- a practice that not only encourages more recycling but also lowers the cost of collection in the long run.

Go to recycleright.org to learn more about the right way to recycle in central Ohio.

Earth Day activities

Recycling is just one way for people to reduce their impact on the environment.

Earth Day is April 22, and people in central Ohio and around the world will celebrate the day by participating in activities meant to protect the earth, such as planting trees, picking up garbage, recycling more materials and meeting with lawmakers to address environmental policy.

Our vision at SWACO is to have a community that is environmentally safe and resourceful. SWACO is partnering with Green Columbus to support a variety of Earth Day events and activities.

SWACO and the city of Dublin also are partnering to hold a household hazardous waste drop-off event April 20 in Dublin.

Additionally, SWACO is teaming up once again with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to bring the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day to Franklin County from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 27. Safe disposal of prescription drugs is important to our environmental health and also in the fight against the opioid epidemic afflicting so many Ohio communities.

Each of these events will provide Franklin County residents the chance to properly dispose of unwanted materials that cannot be recycled.

I hope you'll join me and the entire team at SWACO in celebrating Earth Day by making at least one change to help the environment, such as composting food scraps, giving up disposable water bottles or making the extra effort to recycle right.

Even little steps can make a big difference.

Ty Marsh is executive director of SWACO. Questions about its operations may be directed to him at questions@swaco.org. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Community News.